Pardew's Promotion Road

BY his own admission, Alan Pardew, was disappointed with his side's performance against Preston as defeat signalled the end of West Ham's automatic promotion chances.

Now the Hammers will have to travel a route they know only too well in order to reach the Premiership, one that will go via Cardiff and the Millennium Stadium.

But Pards is not one to dwell on the negatives and after he held a team meeting to dissect the problems of the 2-1 defeat at Preston, the Hammers boss reaffirmed his determination to lead West Ham United back to the top-flight.

"I want to take the Club into the Premiership," he insisted. "We were 90 minutes away last season and this season everyone was determined to be up amongst the top two.

"But we're not and it's important we accept that and focus on the job we have to do. We'll have to go another route to get promoted now, certainly a more difficult route, but we can make it and we've got to focus on achieving our aim through the Play-offs."

Alan admitted his disappointment at the defeat to Preston, especially that his side failed to match the Deepdale outfit in a game that was so crucial for the Club's promotion ambitions. It is something the Hammers management have worked hard to rectify this week.

"We had a meeting this week about what happened during the Preston game," he revealed. "Everyone was disappointed with the performance we put in and regardless of the other incidents that were going on, we simply did not play well enough.

"In a game between two teams fighting it out for promotion I expected better of my players, and I've told them that.

"Our display was poor and we didn't do the things that we usually do well. We also had some individual performances that weren't up to scratch, and we also have one or two players that have come back from injury and still need a few games to get their sharpness back.

"Matty Etherington would be the first to agree that he still needs a couple of games to get back to his best, and overall we need to put more thought into our work rate and we shouldn't have got wrapped up in the other things that were going on.

"Those are the type of things we've discussed this week and I think it's been productive. We've dealt with Preston now, it's in the past, and now we're focusing on what will be a tough game against Reading this weekend when we take on another promotion rival."

Indeed, in his entire managerial career Alan Pardew has never finished lower than fourth, and it's a record the Hammers boss is keen to protect. But personal challenges are set aside as he looks to return West Ham United to its former glory.

"I knew the agenda was going to be difficult when I came here," he explained, "but I haven't shirked it and I'll continue to face up to the challenge.

"Since I arrived at West Ham the people have been fantastic and the support of the fans has been brilliant.

"There is huge expectation, which the Club deals with on a daily basis. We have to accept that at a big Club like West Ham United there's going to be criticism and speculation.

"I can deal with that. The only thing that frustrates me is when I can't bring the success that our supporters want. But I firmly believe that I can achieve it and we still have a very promising chance of promotion this season. It's not going to come the way we wanted it to, but it can still come and that's what we have to concentrate on now."